Mount Carmel drops Loyola in BCL basketball opener; Kalu posts double-double (VIDEO HERE!)

Mount Carmel’s Kevin Kalu tries to dribble between Loyola’s Gavin Walsh and Uche Unegbu (right) during Saturday’s MIAA A Conference/Baltimore Catholic League basketball game. Kalu was solid on both ends with 16 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots as the Cougars defeated Dons in Essex.

by Derek Toney

Our Lady of Mount Carmel boys basketball had a surprising run last season. The Cougars are showing early in the new season it wasn’t a fluke.

Mount Carmel defeated Loyola Blakefield, 68-59, in a MIAA A Conference/Baltimore Catholic League match in Baltimore County. Senior post Kevin Kalu finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds for the Cougars, and Toby Nnadozie had 16.

The Old Eastern Avenue school distanced the Dons in the fourth quarter to win its 2021 BCL debut. Mount Carmel is 2-0 overall, opening with a victory over Gerstell Academy Wednesday.

After a losing season in 2018-19, the Cougars went 17-13 last year, losing to Mount St. Joseph in the BCL Tournament semifinals at Loyola College’s Reitz Arena. Mount Carmel, the No. 6 seed, upset third-seed Archbishop Spalding in the opening round.

A couple weeks later, COVID-19 crippled the sports landscape. The Cougars, hoping to continue building momentum with offseason activities, were in an extended pause.

Mount Carmel coach Trevor Quinn said his team is trying to find its footing with a truncated MIAA A/BCL slate.

“We’re able to do some individual workouts throughout the fall and winter, but now you got to cram stuff in and not as much preparation in-between games,” said Quinn, a former Cougar assistant under Tom Rose (now Goucher College’s mens coach). “We’ll use games to iron things out. It’s good to have some resolution…for so many months it was question marks.”

Kuralt Turk, a promising 6-foot-7 center/forward from Turkey who was the Sportsmanship Award recipient at last year’s BCL Tournament, did not return to Mount Carmel. The Cougars, however, got a pair of additions in 6-7 Todus Gudonis from Lithuania and Kalu from City College.

Gudonis, displaying a typical European in-out game, had eight points Saturday including a pair of early 3-pointers. The 6-8 Kalu had four blocked shots and three powerful dunks off drive-and-dish feeds.

“He (Kalu) can be a dominant player in this league,” said Quinn.

“We’re keeping everybody on track,,” said Cougars junior point guard Deon Perry, who finished with 11 points “We have a lot of chemistry and everybody knows where they’re supposed to be on the floor.”

Perry, Mount Carmel’s top offensive player last season, started slow Saturday then sparked his team at the start of the second half. He and Kalu combined for the first nine points as Mount Carmel scored 11 straight, turning a 32-30 halftime lead into 43-30 midway through the third quarter.

Loyola cut it to 43-37, but Nnadozie cooled the Dons’ run with a 3-pointer. Loyola got to within 46-41 early in the fourth, and Mount Carmel promptly answered.

James Robinson nabbed an offensive board and converted, followed by a Nnadozie free throw. Freshman guard Andrew Dixon’s 3-point play and basket from Kevin Chinnia put the Cougars back in control, 54-41, with 5 minutes, 29 seconds left in regulation.

“Some of our bench guys were able to attack the gaps against the zone and did a good job defending,” said Quinn.

Senior Cam Smith and junior Gavin Walsh each finished with 15 points for Loyola, and Charlie Hepting added 11. The Dons, who defeated Annapolis Area Christian School in their season debut Wednesday, trailed by 14 points late in the fourth after getting to within two possessions at the start of the quarter.

Toby Nnadozie (16 points) and Deon Perry (11) has Mount Carmel basketball off to a 2-0 start in 2021. The Cougars play at McDonogh School Monday afternoon.

“I thought our guys really fought, the execution part is going to be tough because the lack of practice time, but we played hard and that’s the main thing we’re looking for,” said Loyola coach Josh Davalli. “We weren’t able to get much going in the third and that’s a tribute to them (Mount Carmel)…they got guys who can do a lot of different things on the floor.”

Quinn said the Cougars won’t be as reliant on Perry, who was selected to the BCL All-Tournament team last year as well as a second-team selection for the BCL 2019-20 regular season. Monday, Mount Carmel plays at McDonogh School in a MIAA A contest.

“We have a lot of good offensive pieces…we can all put the ball in the basket,” said Nnadozie, a 6-3 guard. “A lot of teams are going to have a hard time with that, and we’re going to progress as the season goes.”

Our Lady of Mount Carmel 68, Loyola Blakefield 59

Loyola – Cam Smith 15, Gavin Walsh 15, Charlie Hepting 11, Unegbu 5, Dixon 4, Johnson 4, O Fischer 2, T Hepting 2, Drew 1. Totals 21 11-15 59.

Mount Carmel – Kevin Kalu 16, Toby Nnadozie 16, Deon Perry 11, Todos Gudonis 8, Andrew Dixon 7, James Robinson 6, Kevin Chinnia 2, Mitchell Kalu 2. Totals 29 5-7 68.

Loyola 13 17 9 20 – 59

Mount Carmel 20 12 14 22 – 68